Today I am excited to have part one of an interview with Freda Warrington to share with you.  Freda Warrington is the author of nineteen novels, and for more information on her and her books you can visit her website or her blog. Her work was brought to my attention with the recent publication of her first two Aetherial Tales books, stand alone novels set in the same universe.  The first of these, Elfland, was my favorite book read in 2010 (review), and I also enjoyed reading Midsummer Night (review).  However, since Elfland was her first novel published in the United States, I didn’t know much about her or her other books so I asked her for an interview and she was kind enough to accept. I hope you have as much fun learning about her and her books as I did!

Midsummer Night

Fantasy Cafe: First of all, thank you for answering a few questions.  Of course I’m particularly excited about the third Aetherial Tales novel.  Is there yet a release date for Grail of the Summer Stars?  Can you tell us anything about what it will be about, when it takes place in relation to the other two Aetherial Tales books, and if there will be any familiar faces?

Freda Warrington: Grail of the Summer Stars will be coming out in summer/ fall of 2012, as long as I’m not too late delivering the manuscript! I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s still a work in progress. However, I can reveal that it tells the story of Mistangamesh (Mist for short), a character who appeared briefly in Midsummer Night, and a new character, Stevie, who meets him and discovers that she, too, has a very peculiar past. Where Midsummer Night was set mostly in one place, Grail will have a broader scope location-wise, and a more epic feel. It’s a complete story in itself, but firmly connected to the first two books which I hope will please readers who enjoyed them. It will also complete an arc that’s been simmering in the background of the first two novels… that’s the plan, anyway, but we all know what can happen to plans!

As for familiar faces, see next question!

FC: Ok, I’m sorry, but I need to take a moment to ask some fangirl questions.  I promise I’ll get right back on track once I get these out of my system!  Are there more than just the three Aetherial Tales books planned? Is there any chance there will be more books with Rosie and Sam or possibly a book about the past of Rufus?

FW: Just the three books for the time being. I have ideas for another two at least – I don’t know yet if these will ever be written, but I hope so. In theory, an endless number of tales could be set in the Aetherial universe, because it’s completely elastic. It isn’t a place where there’s just One Big Quest and then it’s all over. Rather, it’s more of an imaginative landscape where all sorts of different characters, human and non-human, can play out their stories.

Funny you should ask about Sam and Rosie, and Rufus’s past – you’ll be pleased to hear that they all feature in Grail! Obviously in Midsummer Night, Rufus was very naughty and got away with a lot, so there is unfinished business between him and his brother, Mist. At some point I realised, too, that Sam, Rosie and Lucas have a part to play in the story. It’s not a huge part, but it is important. You won’t find the intense focus on them and their relationships that there was in Elfland, because this is not their story, but I hope that readers of Elfland will enjoy meeting them again and remembering what they went through in the past to bring them to this point.

FC: Why did you decide to set the first two Aetherial Tales books in modern times?  If there are going to be more than the three books (as I so fervently hope!) will any of them take place in a historical setting or even be set entirely in the Otherworld?

FW: I’ve written contemporary fantasy before – The Rainbow Gate, Dark Cathedral – and I’ve always been captivated by the idea of our everyday world hiding mysterious layers. One of my initial ideas for Elfland was that every single household is like a separate universe – just entering someone else’s house is so like landing on another planet, an author almost doesn’t need to bother creating a supernatural Otherworld! Exploring this idea in Elfland, by showing a couple of very different households in conflict, naturally felt like it needed a modern setting. A timeless setting, should I say. Meanwhile, because the feel of the narrative was all about the contrast between the everyday and the fantastical, the characters wouldn’t have worked in a historical period. I liked them being able to swear at each other, or jump into cars, or get sent to prison, or be rushed to hospital like ordinary humans, while they’ve got all this secret, magical stuff going on underneath. Likewise, in Midsummer Night, it would have been difficult to make Juliana Flagg a highly acclaimed sculptor, or have her ex-husband being a government minister who swans about in a Lamborghini, if I’d set it in a much earlier time. There’s so much fun to be had from playing with modern-day settings. Grail has a couple of historical episodes – originally it was going to have more, but I decided this would make the story too complicated – so the narrative is naturally concerned with how the characters, in a modern human world, learn to live with the knowledge they have they’ve had these enormously extended, strange and traumatic lives over thousands of years.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t write an Aetherial tale set in the past, or entirely in the Otherworld. For example, there’s a section in Midsummer Night where one of the characters accuses Rufus of “abducting” a female relative of his from the Otherworld realm where she lived. She denies it, insisting she went with Rufus of her own free will. I’m thinking that this, or something similar, might be an interesting story to explore in more depth. Certainly I think Sam, Rosie and Lucas have more to say and do.

Incidentally, Elfland’s original title was All About Elfland, which was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, as it isn’t really about a traditional Elfland at all… but as my editor wanted to simplify the title, the irony got kind of lost.

FC: Many of us living in the United States have only recently discovered your books with the publication of Elfland and Midsummer Night. Which books in your backlist do you think would be a good starting point for new fans who have discovered the Aetherial Tales books but are unfamiliar with your other books?  I particularly enjoyed how these novels were somewhat dark and character driven.  Are your other books similar?

FW: I believe they are in many ways. Although they might have very different settings and themes, they all originate from the same imaginative landscape in my head! So yes, they do all tend to be “dark and character driven.” The Rainbow Gate and Dark Cathedral are probably the most similar, in that they too have contemporary settings into which supernatural elements and fantastical events intrude. The Jewelfire Trilogy (The Amber Citadel, The Sapphire Throne, The Obsidian Tower), although set in an alternative world, have a similar character-centered, contemporary feel. The Court of the Midnight King is a bit different, as it’s an alternative history version of the story of King Richard III (Shakespeare’s famous “villain”!) and I’ve written vampire novels too, including A Taste of Blood Wine and Dracula the Undead (the latter being a sequel to Dracula).

I still get a lot of requests for the Blood Wine vampire series, copies of which are hard to find, although I hope they will be republished eventually. Unfortunately, many of my books are out of print, but you can get most of them online. Some have been reissued, including Dracula the Undead (Severn House), and my earliest novels – which are weird, dark, sword-and-sorcery tales – have been republished by Immanion Press as A Blackbird in Silver Darkness and A Blackbird in Amber Twilight, so these are easy to obtain. I have lots of Dark Cathedral, too.

If you go to my website,, you can find a complete list of my work and email me about it.

FC: As I have only recently discovered your books, I haven’t had a chance to read the Jewelfire trilogy yet. I noticed the description mentioned a race called “Aelyr.”  Are they at all connected to the Aelyr from the Aetherial Tales?

FW: Aha! You spotted that! Yes – I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of beings who look human but aren’t: for example elves, vampires, angels, demons, demi-gods and so on. My Aetherials, or Aelyr, are simply my own version of such a race. When I was writing the Jewelfire trilogy, it was conceived to be a traditional-style high fantasy, with a twist. The Aelyr appeared as my version of an elf-type race… beautiful, mysterious and fascinating to humans, but rather more sexy and less noble-minded than Tolkien’s Elves! When I started Elfland, although it’s a very different book, it made perfect sense to me that my non-human race would be part of the same other-race that I’d used in The Amber Citadel trilogy. Well, I see them as “cousins” who live in slightly different dimensions of the Otherworld, with different mythologies and different approaches to life – but basically, the same race.

I love the idea of making these connections between my novels, acknowledging that although they are separate stories, they are connected because they all emerge from the same inner landscape. It’s saying, the human imagination IS the Otherworld. I’ve played with other connections too – for example, it’s hinted that Peta Lyon, in Midsummer Night, might know the characters from Dark Cathedral. And in Grail of the Summer Stars I have a minor character, Fin, who appeared in The Court of the Midnight King. Small things like that. It’s fun, but I’m keeping it subtle and in the background, so if the reader misses it, it doesn’t matter, but if they pick it up and think, “Aha!”, that’s fine too.

FC: You mentioned on your blog that you do not want to write trilogies anymore, only stand alone books.  What made you decide you didn’t want to write longer, closely connected stories?

FW: Speaking in general terms, and not about any specific publisher, she hurriedly points out – what tends to happen is that when Book One comes out, the publisher makes a big publicity splash and it sells lots of copies. There will probably be less fuss over Book Two so it doesn’t sell as well. By the time Book Three comes out, the publisher has lost interest and also slashed their marketing budget. Then the reader may find Book Three on the bookshop shelf – but because Books One and Two are no longer there, and may even be out of print, they won’t buy it. I think trilogies or series only work if you become a massive seller like JK Rowling or Robert Jordan. That’s why I wanted to go for stand-alone novels. I’ve heard other authors say they’re doing the same. Although, as I said above, my Aetherial Tales are connected (and probably more than I meant them to be!) they can each be enjoyed separately.

Part two will be posted tomorrow.  I had a lot of questions, and even after cutting them back, the interview ended up rather long – especially since I asked a few more questions after reading the answers.  The next part will mainly be focused on general topics such as realistic female characters in fiction and the appeal of young adult novels.  I hope that you enjoyed the first part and will be back to read part two tomorrow!

Updated 2/13: Now that the rest of the interview has been posted, read the rest here.


The Sea Thy Mistress, released in hardcover and as an e-book the beginning of this month, is the conclusion to Elizabeth Bear’s Edda of Burdens trilogy.  It is a direct sequel to All the Windwracked Stars, the first book in this series.  By the Mountain Bound, the second book, is actually a prequel that covers events leading up to the beginning of the first published installment.  In spite of the fact that The Sea Thy Mistress is the second part of All the Windwracked Stars, I would highly recommend reading the middle volume before the final one since it adds a lot of perspective to the final book.  Also, it’s a fantastic book and I enjoyed it about as much as this one.

Please note that events from the end of All the Windwracked Stars impact what happens in this novel.  The following review will contain spoilers for this novel (starting with the very first sentence!) since it would be very difficult to discuss it without including some events from that book. If you are curious about the series but want to avoid reading too much about the last book, here are the reviews of the other two books: All the Windwracked Stars and By the Mountain Bound.

Since Muire was willing to take the place of the old Bearer of Burdens after All the Windwracked Stars, the world was not destroyed and life goes on.  Thirty-four years after Muire went into the sea, Aethelred came to the shores to let her know that he has finally been able to forgive her for leaving Cahey behind.  He’s come to really understand her reasons and believes it was a very mature, difficult choice to make.  Even though he knows she may be unhappy about the idea, he also tells her he and some others are building a church – a shrine to preserving knowledge about what Muire did, as she’s no longer around to be the historian.  While he is there, Aethelred finds a baby, the son of Muire and Cahey whose existence Muire hid from almost everybody, including the child’s father.  Aethelred takes in the child, and Selene sets out to find Cahey and break the news to him.

Two years later, Selene finally tracks down Cahey living a simple life on a farm with a woman he rescued from a group of men about to kill her.  Selene informs Cahey that he has a son, and he travels to Aethelred’s house to meet three-year-old Cathmar.  Once he has spent some time with the boy, Aethelred prepares to move out, which makes Cahey very anxious.  Worried that he’ll repeat bad habits learned from his own abusive upbringing, Cahey says he doesn’t know how to be a father.  Aethelred tells him that’s not true because he knows exactly what not to do from how his father treated him and reassures him that he could never hurt Muire’s son.

Shortly before Cahey is united with Cathmar, the goddess Heythe returns to the world and is very upset to discover that her apocalypse failed.  Once Cathmar grows older, she wreaks havoc on the lives of both him and his father, those loved by the one who ruined her plans.  However, Mingan, who is old enough to have some personal history with her from the first time the world ended, notices her reappearance and vows to keep her from ruining this world.

The Sea Thy Mistress cemented The Edda of Burdens trilogy as one of my favorite series because it has strong writing, a well-developed setting, deep characterization, and a complexity that makes the whole series very worth rereading to better understand it.  All the Windwracked Stars was enjoyable, but both By the Mountain Bound and this novel were even better with a more character-driven focus.  As is common with novels by Elizabeth Bear, the first published novel in the trilogy had a lack of exposition and only slowly revealed what was going on.  The middle volume filled in more of the details about the background until that point and gave more insight into the characters and their past actions and motivations.  This concluding volume expanded on both of these with the continuation of threads from both books (and this is why I suggest reading both first, even the prequel – it fills in some of the gaps about past relationships and what happened).  Sometime I really want to read these three back to back in chronological order to get the most out of the story and the connections in all the novels.

This particular installment in the series is beautifully written with gorgeous, vivid descriptions without being overly verbose.  The story is heavily influenced by the Prose Edda (or perhaps the Poetic Edda or both) with the inclusion of Ragnarok, valkyries, the Midgard serpent, and the great wolf, but it’s not a just a rehash of familiar myths, either – Bear simultaneously incorporated Norse mythology and made it her own.  It’s grounded in legends, but by fleshing out the different characters with personalities, making them both similar to and different from their origins, creating new characters and situations, and having a futuristic incarnation of the world it’s very unique.  For example, I’m certain Mingan is supposed to be the wolf Fenrir since he’s known as the Wolf (obviously), he’s the son of the trickster (Loki), and he’s been bound, to name a few reasons.  Yet he is so much more than the Fenrir of legend with the added complexity of character.  He has an evolving personality of his own complete with complicated relationships with Cahey/Strifbjorn, Muire, and Selene.  Also if he’s Fenrir, the Imogen must be Hel, but she’s a unique representation of this character with the same basic affiliations with death and hunger – but similar to a vampire in nature.

In this series, Bear shines at creating a riveting cast of characters with struggles and deeply affecting problems.  There is a particular emphasis on transformations in this novel – the results of Mingan’s redemption that made Kasimir reveal his name to him, Muire’s change from angel to goddess, and Cahey’s transformation from human to angel.  Out of these three main characters throughout the course of the series, this is more Cahey’s book (with Muire barely present but a definite force).  Cahey has so much to deal with – the loss of Muire and his inability to truly let go as well as the newfound pressure of being inhuman:


The lambs didn’t surprise him — if Muire’s self-immolation had brought them birds and trees and flowers, it only seemed natural that she, being Muire, would make certain the practicalities were handled.  Nor did it surprise him that the humans he met behaved just as he expected humans to behave, from the very start. Some few impressed him with their common decency, their loyalty, their sense of purpose.

But the majority were no better than they should be, and Cathoair found that comforting. They were human, after all. Just people, and people were fragile.

He found he missed the permission to be fragile most of all. [pp. 15]

Once he’s starting to get used to his new life, Cahey discovers the existence of his son which brings up a whole new range of issues.  He has to travel to Eiledon, which he’s been avoiding because of Muire’s shrine.  Although Cahey logically understands why she left and would defend her memory to anyone, he hasn’t been able to truly forgive her in his heart for leaving him (even if it was for the great cause of preventing the end of the world).  Furthermore, he is concerned that he’ll repeat his own father’s past mistakes in raising his child since the only parenting he has experienced was abusive.  It was largely about forgiveness – not just of others but of oneself – getting over past grief and keeping it from affecting the present, and sacrifice.

The Sea Thy Mistress is an impressive novel and a fantastic conclusion to the Edda of Burdens trilogy.  It has some strong writing with beautifully worded details and emotional appeal.  The characters are fully fleshed out and deep with problems related to human nature, even if some of them are angels straight out of Norse mythology.  It’s a poignant, heart-breaking but at times hopeful book – and it is one of the best books I’ve yet read from Elizabeth Bear.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC/finished copy from the publisher (read the ARC, looked through and quoted from the finished copy when writing the review).

Read an Excerpt

Other reviews:

Reviews of other books in this series:

This really has nothing to do with the book itself, but I just wanted to add that I love these titles.  Not only are they all beautiful but they all match nicely with 5 syllables each.  I noticed a lot of Elizabeth Bear’s series have titles that match like that.  What do you mean, OCD?


Although I don’t have the whole week planned out, I did want to give everybody a heads up about what’s coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday since I’m very excited about it!  Content for the rest of the week and when it will be up will depend on just how fried I am in the evenings after work (and how quickly I can straighten up questions I’m putting together for an interview), but here’s what Monday through Wednesday will look like:

Review of The Sea Thy Mistress, the conclusion to Elizabeth Bear’s Edda of Burdens trilogy (a fantastic trilogy and an excellent book).

Interview with Freda Warrington, author of Elfland and Midsummer Night, part one.  This interview grew a bit after the first round of questions since I then asked some more afterward, so I decided to split it in half.  The first part is mostly going to be about Freda’s writing such as what’s coming up with her next Aetherial Tales book and which books in her backlist are good to start with for those who are new to her work (especially those of us in the US who have just discovered her with the publication of the first two Aetherial Tales books).

Interview with Freda Warrington, author of Elfland and Midsummer Night, part two.  This part is mainly about general topics such as young adult books and ageism and sexism in literature.

This week brought two books – one I bought for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club (and will be reading very soon since it’s for this month) and a finished copy of a book I already read as an ARC.  Since I already posted about the ARC when I got it and will be posting the review very soon (probably tomorrow), I won’t include the description here. The finished copy I received is The Sea Thy Mistress, the third book in Elizabeth Bear’s Edda of Burdens trilogy.  I was thrilled to receive it – I loved this book and want to reread the whole trilogy someday.  Plus the hardcover is beautiful and matches the other two books very nicely.

On to February’s Book Club selection.

The DispossessedThe Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Thanks to the Women of Science Fiction Book Club, I am going to finally read a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while.  This has always looked like the most intriguing of Le Guin’s books to me – perhaps it’s the subtitle “An Ambiguous Utopia” or the fact that it’s won the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award, and the National Book Award.  In any case, I’m looking forward to finding out more about the utopia and how the main character challenges its conventional ideas and tries to change their way of life.

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.


It was so close to being four books, but I technically finished the fourth on February 1 so it doesn’t count.  I would have been pleased with that number since it took me a long time to read the first book.  Books read in January are:

1. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge (review)
2. Late Eclipses (Toby Daye #4) by Seanan McGuire (review forthcoming closer to March)
3. Dust (Jacob’s Ladder #1) by Elizabeth Bear (review in progress)

Favorite book of the month: A Fire Upon the Deep was the best, but my personal favorite was Late Eclipses.  It’s the Toby book I’ve been waiting for – a lot of the problems I’d had with some of the previous books were ironed out and SO MUCH HAPPENED!  I enjoyed it immensely and can’t wait for the next one!

The discussion of Dust for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club is now going on!  I’ve been reading it, but I haven’t made many comments.  I came back from work the day the post was up and there were so many comments by that time already that I didn’t know where to start…  It’s an interesting book, though, and there is certainly a lot to talk about!

What did you read during January and how did you like the books you read?

When I received my review copy of The Skin Map, the first book in the Bright Empires series, the publicist who sent it to me also included an extra copy to give away here.  I haven’t read it yet, but I have liked other books I’ve read by the author and it looks pretty interesting.  Here are the details:

The Skin Map

It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intereing realities. To unravel the future of the future.

Kit Livingston’s great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.

One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard, and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code–a roadmap of symbols–that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.

The Bright Empires series–from acclaimed author Stephen Lawhead–is a unique blending of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning, fantastical adventure like no other.

Read an Excerpt

If you’d like to enter to win a hardcover copy of The Skin Map, fill out the form below and you’ll be entered into the giveaway!  Since the last giveaway was only open in the US and Canada, I’m opening this one up to everywhere.  This giveaway will be open through the end of the day on February 16.  A winner will be randomly selected on February 17.  If the winner does not send their address by the end of the day on February 21, a new winner will be selected.  Thanks and good luck!

Update: Since the giveaway is now over, the entry form has been removed.  Thanks to all who entered!